Sr Ernesta1 occupied a senior position in Beechpark for nearly one-third of its existence. She was described as a very strict authoritarian nun. She enforced the rule against signing and it was alleged that she slapped children who signed. The complainants also said that their education suffered because of the enforcement of Oralism.
All of the complainants who were present during Sr Ernesta’s regime described being lined up in the morning to go to the toilet and expected to ‘perform on demand’ and were punished if they did not do so. Many of them complained of being given laxatives for this purpose. This routine was carried out every day and the children did not have privacy with regard to their toilet routine.
Five other nuns were criticised, but most complaints were about Sr Ernesta. She was the nun who slapped for signing, enforced the toilet regime and force fed those who would not eat. She slept near the dormitories and supervised the children at night.
The Congregation supported Sr Ernesta in denying allegations that she beat the children or hit them with a stick or ruler. The School was small and the staff were a closely knit community. If she had beaten the children, Sr Ernesta would have been reported to the Manager of the school for mistreating pupils and abusing her position as Principal. Rules and regulations were necessary even if they appear harsh and unreasonable by the standards of today. Changes were made during 1971 which led to a more lenient regime. Most of this forward thinking and planning was the ‘brain child’ of Sr Ernesta.